The drums of war are beating again. The Obama administration is considering military actions which will inevitably kill civilians with the ostensible purpose of showing the Syrian government that killing civilians (allegedly with chemical weapons) is wrong.
The United States and the International community have failed to take constructive steps to promote peace-making efforts which could have brought the travesty of the crisis in Syria to an end. Big powers instead have waged a proxy war to give their “side” a stronger hand in future negotiations evaluating the situation only in terms of geopolitical concerns. The result has been to once again show that “military solutions” to political and economic problems are no solution at all. In the meantime the flames of enmity between religious factions have been fanned to such a degree that the demonization of each by the other has created fertile ground for genocide and excuses for not negotiating with anyone with “blood on their hands”.
If it is substantiated that chemical agents such as nerve agents were used in Syria, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) condemns the use of any type of chemical weapons by any party in Syria. Despite US claims of “little doubt that Assad used these weapons” there is significant doubt among the international community who sees the so called rebels as trying to set up a situation to get the US to intervene against Assad. We condemn any military intervention by the United States in Syria as a reprisal to punish the government.
Chemical weapons which kill and maim people are illegal and their use violates the laws. The illegality of chemical and poisoned weapons was first established by the Hague regulations of 1899 and Convention of 1907. It was reiterated in the Geneva Convention of 1925 and the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court specifically states that employing “poison or poisoned weapons” and “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials or devices” are war crimes, under Article 8. The prohibition on the use of these weapons is an international norm regardless whether any convention has been ratified. As these weapons do not distinguish between military combatants and civilians they violate the principle of distinction and the ban on weapons which cause unnecessary suffering and death contained in the Hague Convention of 1907. Under the Nuremberg Principles, violations of the laws of war are war crimes for which leaders may be criminally prosecuted.
The IADL agrees that the use of these weapons must be the basis for criminal liability for those who used them, on the other hand, for the United States to threaten to and or launch a military strike in reprisal is a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter. The Charter in Article 2(4) makes it illegal for any country to either use force or the threat of use of force in international relations. Article 2(7) prohibits intervention in an internal or domestic dispute in another country. The only time the use of force is legal under the Charter is under Article 51 which allows a State to defend itself if attacked. The United States has not been attacked by Syria.
The way to deter the use of chemical weapons is to actually enforce in the Criminal Court the chemical weapons ban which has become an international norm in the above named conventions including the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The IADL is concerned about the hypocrisy of the United States’ self-righteousness regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad when the US used massive amounts of chemical weapons in the form of Agent Orange in Vietnam, (and against US citizens in Vieques) which is affecting countless people over many generations without accountability; its use of depleted uranium in Serbia and Iraq and its failure to address the matter at the time these weapons were used in the Iran-Iraq war. This is not to justify the use of such weapons, it is merely pointing out that the credibility of the United States being truly morally outraged by the use of these weapons falls flat if the moral outrage is not followed by it taking responsibility for its own violations and if it is also followed by military strikes which of necessity will result only in an escalation of and possible widening of war. The only way to address what should be international outrage over the killing of so many people in Syria is to work to promote a durable cease fire and find a political solution.
The IADL calls upon the United States and the international community not to intervene in Syria and to take affirmative steps to promote a durable cease fire and end the killing consistent with the UN charter which ensures that there is peace and accountability.